Or maybe it never was.

Not too long ago I wrote of my falling out with team sports, but the NFL still maintained some interest for me. Unfortunately, because of my first race and other obligations last Sunday, I missed Week 1, but I was able to catch Week 2 games with my MANville co-hosts Johnny and Dan and a few other friends.

Marc Sanchez takes aim en route to a 28-14 win over the Patriots in Week 2. (credit: Seth Wenig, Associated Press)

Johnny has DirecTV and has a package that includes the Red Zone Channel. If you’re not familiar, the basic idea is that the feed instantly switches to whatever game has a team in scoring position and/or replays of important moments, sort of like a real-time highlight reel. I didn’t think I’d like it at first, but it sort of grew on me and was actually handled pretty well in that they would stick with a game for enough time for it not to appear completely schizophrenic. Enough time is killed by time-outs and other delays that would normally be filled with commercial breaks that you actually end up seeing a fair chunk of every game that’s on. Especially since – fun fact – the average 120+ minutes of television only contains 11 minutes of actual football.

The drawback comes when you want to see a game like the Patriots at the Jets, division rivals with a hot crowd and a storied past. In a case like that, I want to see a game in full, commercials or no commercials. I couldn’t care less about a game involving the crap-ass Jaguars.

What really stuck out to me in getting to see every game, though, was the changes that have occurred to the game.

I honestly think the worst thing that’s happened to the NFL are all of the rule changes over the years. I don’t even mean the rules in place to protect the quarterback. Rather, it’s the ones over-explaining what constitutes a reception and a throw and an interception and a fumble and so on and so forth.

During one such instance there was yet another catch that I’d say would be given to a receiver if the play had happened, say, twenty years ago. Now though, with all of the obsession over technicalities and processes (one color commentator defended the decision by talking about “the process of the catch” which reminded me of why I hate most sports commentators), it was ruled incomplete while we saw over and over again how if only he had held onto it for a split second more while on the ground and put his thumb here and had stuck his foot three foot higher in the air and sung the chorus to “You Should Be Dancing” by The Bee Gees, it would have been a complete pass.

I hate to sound like a geezer, but is it just me or wasn’t there was a time when a guy either caught the ball or he didn’t?

It didn’t start with the Tuck Pass controversy that marred the 2002 Patriots/Raiders (edit: not the Steelers; thanks to Angelos for pointing out the brainfart) AFC Divisional Play-Off Game, but the incident and ensuing fall-out certainly exacerbated the problem. The NFL has allowed crybaby fans and bitter losing coaches who cry to melodramatic sports columnists to bureaucratize the game and jam up the rulebook with needless extrapolations and obsessive-compulsive details over what constitutes the most menial parts of the game. In the past, even if you disagreed with a call, there was an idea that the referees out there were the best judge of what counted and what didn’t, and certain things could (and still should) be allowed rulings to be subjective.

A guy caught a ball, or he didn’t, and it wasn’t a question of exactly how long the ball was in a guy’s hands. It’s supposed to be a game of inches, not a game of intricacies.

Another ruling I saw that incited frustration occurred when a receiver caught a touchdown pass, performed a brief duckwalk, and immediately received a penalty flag for taunting. TAUNTING! A FLAG FOR TAUNTING! Because someone’s feelings might have been hurt, I suppose?

I know we need to instill and enforce a sense of good sportsmanship, because apparently the only way to teach a child about right and wrong is if you’re wearing a football helmet and playing a game. Sure, bad behavior is bad behavior and shouldn’t be tolerated, but isn’t there a line you can draw between allowing a guy a moment to celebrate his accomplishment and bad behavior on the football field?

Again, I yearn for the days when the game wasn’t ruled by legalese, statistics, fantasy points, and instant replay. I suppose it’s too late now and there’s no turning back. It’s just a shame that every time there’s a bad call, instead of chalking something up to a bad call and accepting the fact that you win some and lose some, instead it becomes a huge drama played out over months and resulting in a fervent cry for a rule change as if someone’s rights were violated by something being called an incomplete pass that perhaps, maybe, should have been a fumble.

Ah well. I suppose I’ll keep watching anyway. It’s something to do with friends on a Sunday, and it’s nice to be able groan and say “what an a-hole” whenever Brett Favre shows up on the screen and get a resounding “amen” from all seven or eight people in the room.

That is, until the NFL extends the season to 18 games, at which point teams will enter the play-offs with third-string running backs and wide receivers sliding at the end of plays like they’re quarterbacks.

BONUS CONSPIRACY THEORY: The Manning Brothers have an agreement worked out, and Peyton will throw the next game.


7 Responses to The NFL Just Ain’t What It Used to Be

  1. Angelos says:

    Tuck Rule game was Pats – Raiders.

    But yeah, the NFL sucks.

  2. Tony Barbaro says:

    I don’t watch sports….but if they LET the players take as many steroids as possible, take away the pads and helmets and throw raw meat on the field and maybe some lions, I would watch football.

  3. Chuck Miller says:


    The Manning Brothers do not have a plan in place where one brother wins one week and the other brother wins the next time they compete. That’s just silly talk.


    Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams
    Kurt and Kyle Busch’s parents
    The parents of all six or seven Sutter brothers that played in the NHL

  4. J-EM-P says:

    The intricacies are the same when they talk about using technology to call balls and strikes in baseball.

    I think what Tony is referring to is the LPGA.

  5. phoneguy says:

    Tony….I agree. I think I’ve watched The Gladiator more the last few years than I’ve watched football. The fact that I work on Sundays doesn’t help either. To Kevin’s point…the current rules are harder to follow than Lindsey Lohan’s nightly escapades. The powers that be are so worried about someone getting injured or someone’s feelings getting hurt that dancing to “Skip to my Lou” in the end zone is a 15 yard penalty. It’s insane that in this ridiculously politically correct country we call home Ultimate Fighting is a huge spectator sport. Now that’s sport that only lacks the raw meat and lions.

  6. Joe Yerdon says:

    The “process of the catch” thing is the biggest load of crap going. /Bitter Lions fan

  7. ESPN sounds awesome in 3D. Just sayin’.

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